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COVID-19 vaccine bill gains approval from the Senate

Sen. Lindsey Tichenor, R-Smithfield, speaks on the Senate floor Tuesday on Senate Bill 295, which would prohibit COVID-19 vaccines from being required in many cases in Kentucky.

FRANKFORT— The Kentucky Senate advanced an amended bill Tuesday that would prohibit COVID-19 vaccines from being required for employment, professional licenses, receiving medical treatment or student enrollment and activities.Senate Bill 295’s sponsor, Sen. Lindsey Tichenor, R-Smithfield, said the release of the vaccine ushered in an unprecedented overreach of the government by requiring a “novel medical product to be forced on people just to participate in society.” 


The measure won approval with a 25-11 vote and now heads to the House. One legislator abstained from voting. 

“In 2020, our world, as we all recall, was turned upside down based off projections that indeed have been proven to be grossly inflated. Out of an abundance of caution, we closed our schools, shut down businesses – many of them permanently – we changed our election processes…” Tichenor said.

She said the bill underscores individual liberties even in the face of public health challenges, and its passage would set a precedence and standard on those personal liberties.

Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville, voted against the measure and argued that vaccine exemptions already exist in Kentucky. She said all legislators should understand the importance behind public health measures. 

“Nobody who has a serious medical contraindication or a true religious contradiction to vaccination has been forced to take a vaccine in this state. It hasn’t happened, and it won’t happen. We have those exemptions in our books,” she said.

She said she’s concerned about what the viral disease might look like in the future – from two years or even 10 years from now. 

“To say under no circumstances can we require even health care professionals, it is a danger to our patients if we go in there with communicable diseases. We cannot do that to them,” she said. 

Senate President Pro Tempore David P. Givens, R-Greensburg, also spoke against the bill. He said his family’s business doesn’t require employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but he has concerns about the hospital and nursing home in his community.

“When we say any COVID-19 vaccine, the literal reading of that means any known today and any known in the future,” he said. “Those employees caring for my great aunt at the nursing home or one of my family members in the hospital are not going to be required to be vaccinated if they choose to not be upon passage of this legislation.” 

He also said he didn’t see any provisions in the bill to provide any shield of liability for nursing home owners.  

Speaking in favor of the bill, Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, said SB 295 is “truly about personal freedom” and argued that medical professionals should be trusted to make the decision for themselves. 

But Senate Minority Whip David Yates, D-Louisville, said the bill would prevent small business owners, with eight or more employees, from making any mandate at their local businesses.

“Now, I believe in individual freedom…If I don’t want a vaccination, I’m not going to. But if I’m the employer and I want to say this is what I think is reasonable in my employment, we’re saying even the employer can’t do that in this bill,” he said. 

Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, voted for the measure and said time teaches a lot of lessons. He said the COVID-19 vaccine was issued through an emergency authorization and was not fully tested under normal FDA protocols. 

“Each individual should be able to make their own personal decision whether or not to use the COVID vaccine,” he said. “If they feel good about it, fine. If they feel that it’s safe for them, that’s fine. But they should not have to give up their job. They should not have to give up their mortgage payment. They should not have to give up food on their table in order to protect their privately held views on whether or not to take the vaccine.”



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